Rollins
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WWE Raw Recap: Championship controversy heading into 2016 WWE Draft

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If you’re a wrestling fan, chances are you’re currently in a state of delirium because right now we’re in the middle of an incredible stretch of shows/news.

– A dream match between Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Finn Balor on NXT this past Wednesday.

– The debut of the Cruiserweight Classic.

– Brock Lesnar popped by USADA on Friday for failing a drug test in late June.

– The announcement of the GMs for Raw and SmackDown.

– The beginning of New Japan Pro Wrestling’s G1 tournament.

– A WWE title match between Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose on Raw.

The 2016 WWE Draft on Tuesday’s SmackDown Live.

– The Battleground Pay-Per-View this Sunday.

What a time to be alive.

VInce

On top of the craziness, the WWE actually released some rules for the draft over the weekend:

Those are nice, but which two lucky humans were going to get “picked” by Stephanie and Shane to become the general managers of both Raw and SmackDown Live?

We didn’t have to wait long on Monday night to get an answer.

YES, YES

Late last week, rumors of Daniel Bryan becoming the GM for SmackDown surfaced on the Internet and sure enough those rumors became reality when Shane introduced Bryan in the opening segment.

Before the crowd went wild for Bryan, Stephanie introduced her general manager:

Foleygif

It wasn’t a surprise to see Foley announced as Raw’s GM, but it was a bit underwhelming IMO. With the ultimate babyface GM on SmackDown, it was surprising not to see another heel authority figure with Stephanie (HI ERIC BISCHOFF).

Despite creative’s best efforts to create a rivalry between Bryan and Foley, Mick just doesn’t feel like he’s going to be a permanent figure on Raw. His exit may have been foreshadowed when Shane told Foley that he needed to watch out during their backstage segment.

On a more positive note, it’s great to see Bryan back in the world of professional wrestling. When Bryan gave his emotional goodbye a few months ago, it was fair to wonder if we would ever see him again on WWE programming. He wasn’t ready to retire and openly discussed how painful it was to be around professional wrestling when he found out that he could no longer compete.

Now he’s back in a big way. His commentary work with Mauro Ranallo on the Cruiserweight Classic was wonderful and he’s going to excel in his role as the SmackDown GM.

skelator

Up in the Air

Raw signed off on Monday night with Rollins holding the WWE title on the ramp after Stephanie announced him the winner of the match, but the road to that moment was a bit off course to say the least.

The match itself between Rollins and Ambrose was solid and really picked up towards the end. The crowd really bought the near fall after Rollins hit the pedigree, but the actual finish of the match was so odd that I can’t even explain it, so just watch this clip:

I found the finish strange because it was clearly done to drive viewers to tonight’s SmackDown Live, but there’s a little thing called the draft that’s taking place. Fans are already going to tune in, so why did we need to have such a confusing finish? It just felt unnecessary.

It made sense that Stephanie would announce Seth as the winner because creative could create a situation where Steph comes out on Tuesday night, picks Seth first, but then the title is given back to Ambrose after Shane drafts The Dude to SmackDown.

Nope

Instead Ambrose was given the title back in a segment that was shot after the show that ended on the Network. For some reason, Mike Cole wasn’t given the instructions to drive people to the Network after Raw went off of the air, so if you didn’t have the livestream of the Network up at 11:06, you would have had no idea that Ambrose was given the title back.

The two will have a rematch for the title at the draft, which is perfectly justifiable, but the fact that the conclusion to the main event wasn’t shown on TV or promoted correctly is beyond ridiculous. Why not save the announcement for the beginning of SmackDown and then announce the rematch in the opening segment to create a hook for the end of the show?

Walking on the Sky With a Micsaber

Enzo Amore might very well be the best talker in the entire WWE right now, but his shtick had become a bit underwhelming. He has been constantly repeating lines that he used in NXT. I know that he needs to re-use some of these lines because there’s a good chunk of people who watch WWE, but don’t tune into NXT.

But man ‘Zo was on a stretch where he went from boneless chicken tenders, to ZERO DIMES, to 3.14 time to eat your pie. Amore’s greatest hits playlist was on repeat, but then he added a new track to it on Monday, which was much needed:

Cena playing dumb was a real waste. There was an opportunity there for the Dr. of Thuganomics to make his return and spit some lines about The Club, but alas it was not to be.

Match Results

Sami Zayn & Cesaro beat Chris Jericho & Kevin Owens after Zayn pinned Jericho with a small package.

Darren Young pinned Alberto Del Rio after The Miz tried to distract Young, but it backfired.

The Club & The Wyatts beat The New Day, John Cena, Enzo & Big Cass thanks to a Styles Clash to Enzo. The Clash always looks excellent when it’s hit on a smaller guy. This was the Match of the Night.

Baron Corbin pinned Sin Cara in two minutes after the End of Days.

Sasha Banks & Becky Lynch beat Dana Brooke & Charlotte by DQ after Natalya came down to the ring and attacked Becky. Dana and Charlotte laid out Sasha after the match.

Rusev & Sheamus defeated Zack Ryder and Sheamus when Rusev forced Ziggler to submit to The Accolade.

Seth Rollins was awarded the WWE title after a controversial finish with Dean Ambrose.

JLaw

Time to “Go Home”

– Stephanie just casually threw out a bombshell during the opening promo. The cruiserweight division is coming back and it’s going to be exclusively on Raw. Does this mean that the guys who have been signed from the CWC are coming up as opposed to going to NXT? (Besides Kota Ibushi, NXT needs him with the raid that’s about to take place.)

– Does the Golden Truth or The Ascension have a lower probability of being drafted during the SmackDown Live broadcast?

– Foley totally forgot one of his lines during the opening promo and had to ask Stephanie what he needed to say next.

– The standoff between Big Cass and Braun Stroman actually made me want to see that match.

– Until you remember how green Stroman is in the ring.

– I love how Anderson is getting his #hotasianwife over. The crowd responds every time he brings her up.

– Enzo’s shoe closet must be insane.

– There was a bit of tension teased between AJ Styles and Bray Wyatt during the 12-man tag. It was very subtle.

– Your weekly reminder that Kevin Owens steals every segment that he’s in:

– The Shield triple threat is obviously the highlight of Battleground, but I personally can’t wait to see Zayn vs. Owens. These two are likely going to get split up at the draft, so you would have to imagine that there will be an extra level of intensity during their brawl.

– Bayley has to be Sasha’s mystery partner right?

– The empty arena promo from Rollins was…interesting. It was a cool shot and felt different, which is always nice, but I found the setting to be distracting. It took away from the impact of Rollins’ promo.

– On the other hand, Ambrose’s camera promo was fantastic. I wish he would do more promos like this because it fits his character so well. I just hope the next time he cuts a promo like this a different filter is used because this one looked SO fake.

– How fake?

– Faker than Taylor Swift.

Twitter: @ScottDargis

Kurt Angle to be inducted into WWE Hall of Fame

ORANGE, CA - MAY 08:  Wrestler Kurt Angle arrives at the Lions Gate Premiere of "See No Evil" at the Century Stadium Promenade 25 on May 8, 2006 in Orange, California.  (Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images)
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Oh it’s true, it’s true.

WWE announced today that Kurt Angle will be going into their Hall of Fame on March 31st at the Amway Center in Orlando as part of WrestleMania week.

The 1996 Olympic gold medalist is a five-time WWE world champion and regarded as one of the best in-ring talents to ever grace the squared circle. Angle last appeared in a WWE ring way back in August of 2006.

In a press release, WWE’s Executive Vice President Paul “HHH” Levesque said, “Kurt Angle’s accomplishments both in the Olympics and WWE were extraordinary. He was one of the most gifted athletes to ever enter the ring, and we are honored to welcome him into the WWE Hall of Fame.”

WrestleMania 33 will be held Sunday, April 2nd from the Orlando Citrus Bowl live on WWE Network.

WWE Weekly Recap: 2017 Royal Rumble Odds

corbin
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For the first time in many years, the favorite to win the Royal Rumble isn’t obvious. In fact, this feels like one of the more unpredictable Rumble matches in WWE history.

Five guys who would be considered a favorite to win the match (Seth Rollins, The Undertaker, Braun Strowman, Goldberg and Brock Lesnar) are rumored to have their WrestleMania programs locked in and none are scheduled to be for either of the company’s main championships.

Instead of being a device that’s used to give an established star a main event spot at Mania, the Rumble might actually be used as a launching pad for a future world champion.

trampoline

With that in mind, here’s how I would rank the field:

Baron Corbin 6/1 (+600)

The odds may surprise you, but Corbin has been booked very strong ever since his better-than-expected chairs match with Kalisto at the TLC Pay-Per-View. He was given a lot of offense in the triple threat match for the WWE title on the “Wild Card Finals” episode of SmackDown and “controlled” 80 percent of his match against John Cena this past Tuesday.

Corbin is ascending into the world title picture and it’s totally logical to picture “The Lone Wolf” ending the first PPV of WrestleMania season by pointing at the giant WM sign.

With Goldberg-Lesnar, Undertaker-Strowman, and HHH-Rollins penciled in for Mania, Corbin vs. Styles, Cena or both, is a perfectly fine match (with entrances) to fill 20-25 minutes of the show. Corbin has shown enough in the ring lately for me to buy that he’s ready for a high level match.

Finn Balor 8/1 (+800)

If either Owens or Reigns walk out of the Universal Championship match in San Antonio with the red strap, Balor has a built-in story with either guy.

Balor beat Reigns clean in the middle of the ring during his first night on Raw and after the match Roman said he would love another crack at Balor.

Owens was handed the championship by Triple H, but HHH also has a connection with Balor that could easily be worked up with one or two backstage interactions if creative wanted to go that route.

If not, Balor and Owens could hearken back to their feud in NXT, which produced a set of extremely good matches in the Summer of 2015. Their NXT title match at “Beast in the East” was one of my favorites that year and 30 percent of that was thanks to the streamers that were thrown at the end of Balor’s entrance.

jim

No matter who Balor works with, he’s going to put on a great performance and if WWE wants to have a NJPW style match at Mania, the Demon King would be the perfect person to insert into it.

Samoa Joe or Shinsuke Nakamura 9/1 (+900)

A debuting superstar has never won the Royal Rumble, but if there was ever a time to do it, this is it.

Joe is the more likely option out of the two, considering that he just dropped the NXT title to Nakamura and failed to beat him in the rematch, but if Nakamura loses the title to Bobby Roode at Takeover: San Antonio (unlikely, but you never know), he instantly becomes a favorite.

If either guy won, it would make sense for them to face Styles for the world title at the company’s biggest show of the year. Joe is one of Styles’ best friends in the business. They’ve made magic in the ring together and understand how to put on a clinic in front of a massive crowd.

Nakamura wrestled Styles in the second to last match at Wrestle Kingdom 10, which is New Japan Pro Wrestling’s version of WrestleMania. It was predictably awesome and if you haven’t seen it yet, set aside a half hour and watch it:

Chris Jericho 10/1 (+1000)

As much as I want to see Team Chris and Kevin face off for the Universal title in Orlando. I just don’t think it’s going to happen. If Owens does somehow hold onto the title at the Alamodome, Jericho would instantly become one of the three favorites to win the Rumble.

Owens and Jericho are the hottest act on the company’s flagship show. Roman Reigns may get a bigger reaction in some cities, but he’s still not ready to be a main event promo, which is exactly what Y2KO have been since September, which is why I’m still holding out hope that this match will be for the title.

If Chris and Kevin are going to feud with each other, someone is going to have to turn and it makes sense for K.O. to beat the crap out of Y2J.

Imagine the verbal jabs between a heel Owens and a sympathetic babyface version Jericho who keeps the same character tone, but plays into the cheers.

wow

Now imagine Reigns cutting a 5-10 minute promo about defending the title.

cena

Randy Orton/Bray Wyatt 12/1 (+1200)

It’s easy to see a scenario in which Orton and Wyatt square off at Mania, but what if creative actually has long-term plans for the group?

If Wyatt or Orton were to win the Rumble and wrestle for the world title at WrestleMania, it could set up a title program between the two for the May-July period.

The Miz 14/1 (+1400)

Even though he’s currently in a feud with Dean Ambrose for the Intercontinental Title, Miz has been one of the best acts on SmackDown since the draft and deserves a main event run.

He and AJ teased a feud during a Miz TV segment a few weeks back, but I think the pair should be saved for a SmackDown exclusive PPV later on in the year.

Miz will eventually climb up the card, but sadly, he’s going to be left out of a high profile match at WrestleMania.

John Cena, Roman Reigns, AJ Styles, Kevin Owens 17/1 (+1700)

I’m expecting the losers of both title matches to enter the Rumble later on in the night. If I had to rank the four in terms of most likely winners I’d go: Styles, Cena, Reigns, Owens. It would be an interesting swerve to the Cena-Styles storyline if Cena won the title from AJ earlier in the night and then Styles responded by winning the rumble.

Owens is likely locked for a Mania match with Jericho and it would be a major letdown if Reigns won the most unpredictable Rumble in years.

Sami Zayn 25/1 (+2500)

If the Owens-Zayn storyline had any heat left, Zayn would be a logical choice. It would be a genuinely shocking moment and Zayn could use a boost after doing the job for Strowman.

With Owens likely taking on Jericho at Mania and Zayn’s current placement on the card, I don’t expect the taxi driver to make any real impact in the Rumble.

Rusev 25/1 (+2500)

The Bulgarian George Clooney deserves a featured spot in WrestleMania season because he’s one of the most entertaining full-time performers on the roster, but there are only so many spots to go around.

rusev

Big Cass 25/1 (+2500)

I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if Big Cass ends up as one of the “Final Four” participants in the Rumble match. Either that or he’s going to have a spot midway through where he runs through a couple dudes before going out quickly.

Any member of The New Day 28/1 (+2800)

Big E is the only legitimate option here. This would be an ideal moment to begin the inevitable breakup between the three, but it needs to be a slow burn.

Dean Ambrose 40/1 (+4000)

He’s headed for another multi-man match for the IC title at WrestleMania.

Seth Rollins 50/1 (+5000)

Rollins is obviously penciled in to face Triple H in Orlando, so there’s no need for him to be near the title picture until after Mania.

Braun Strowman 50/1 (+5000)

He’s most likely facing The Undertaker. While it may seem like Strowman isn’t ready for the level of a match, if the company is serious about pushing him, he needs to be in this spot.

The split rosters have created a need for new stars, which means a clean win for Strowman over the Undertaker could be in the cards.

The Undertaker 50/1 (+5000)

As noted above, Taker most likely has a date with Adam from Tinder at Mania.

Yes, I know I used that line last week, but why not bring it back for round two?

Goldberg and Brock Lesnar 50/1 (+5000)

I’d love to see Brock and Goldberg “draw” the first two numbers and beat the hell out of guys until Braun Strowman eventually comes out.

Kane 70/1 (+7000)

Kane has shockingly been protected since the draft, so don’t be surprised if he has a strong showing in the Rumble. Who knows, maybe he makes it all of the way to the “Final Four.”

Shelton Benjamin 75/1 (+7500)

Benjamin was scheduled to return to the SmackDown brand after the draft, but needed surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff. He had a six-month recovery time frame and the Rumble falls perfectly in line with his rehab, so don’t be surprised if “ain’t no stoppin me now” blares over the speakers in San Antonio.

American Alpha 75/1 (+7500)

Enjoy the SmackDown tag team titles. Jordan has a chance to win this in a few years.

Apollo Crews 100/1 (+10000)

He should still be in NXT.

Any cruiserweight 100/1 (+10000)

Nope.

Dolph Ziggler 100/1 (+10000)

The guy’s gimmick is that he loses, so there’s no way he’s going to win.

James Ellsworth 1000/1 (+100000)

Any man with two fists has a chance to be eliminated.

Holy Schnikes moment of the week:

Take it away Becky Lynch.

If you don’t know what see you next Tuesday means, Google it.

Time to “Go Home”

– Stephanie was harder to listen to than Otunga this week. Was it necessary for her to talk down to Sasha and Bayley like that? As a fan, how am I supposed to cheer either of the babyfaces if they don’t have a snarky retort ready to counter Steph’s heelish lines.

– So Nia Jax pins Bayley essentially clean in the middle of the ring just two weeks before Bayley faces Charlotte for the women’s title. Makes sense.

– Has anyone else noticed that Karl Anderson’s pants say #BC on them? I find it a bit strange that no one backstage has said anything to him about this.

– Everything about Neville’s heel turn is great, including the variety of moves he’s displaying in the ring. This week he worked a mat wrestling/submission style that resulted in him using the Rings of Saturn to get the victory over Lince Dorado.

– I like the fire Rich Swann showed when he attacked Neville after the match.

– I thought Natalya and Nikki Bella had an excellent brawl on SmackDown. Nattie caught Nikki with a kick right to the face.

So Seth Rollins is supposedly getting new music after all. Once I heard this version by Downstrait, I got bummed out every time I heard Rollins’ actual music:

– Please WWE, no more Big Cass vs. Jinder Mahal matches.

– I like that Ziggler’s heel turn accelerated this week. The worst thing for his character would have been to come out this week and apologize for his actions. Instead, he beat the crap out of Kalisto after their match and then waffled Apollo Crews with a chair when AC came out to help his “friend” Kalisto.

– This was American Alpha’s best showing since their call-up to the main roster. Gable used his hot tag effectively and Jordan had a very nice amateur wrestling sequence with Bray to begin the match.

– I LOVED Cena’s backstage promo this week. It felt a bit like a Doctor of Thuganomics promo, just all grown up.

The Twitter Machine: @ScottDargis